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Another One Bites the Dust

Tom Porton, a high school English teacher in the Bronx with over 40 years of experience quit teaching. Yeah, so what? If you haven’t already read this NYT piece about Porton, you should.
Twenty-five years ago AIDS was a serious issue in low socio-economic areas nationwide, and the Bronx was no different. Porton thought the most effective preventative measure was an education, and so he teamed up with Montefiore Medical Center to educate his students. Since then, he’s distributed an AIDS educational flier to his students annually. His efforts have earned him national recognition, including a spot in the National Teachers Hall of Fame.

In additon to staging plays and dramas, Porton also teaches a civic leadership class that meets before school. His students hone their leadership skills and connect to their local community (which includes feeding the homeless). It’s no surprise his students praise him as a life-changer and continue to nominate him for awards.

Brendan Lyons, Porton’s princi…
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The Zuck Stops Here

By now, most people know Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of the-application-responsible-for-making-you-think-you-live-an-unfulfilling-life) and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, announced they're giving away roughly 99% of their wealth (about $45 billion) to charity. In their letter, they highlighted "personalized learning" as an initiative the charity will focus on. 

I've read and heard mixed opinions, which is a good thing, but what disappoints me are the overly reactionary and negative views some educators have written. We should not be so quick to judge the so-called "charity's" efforts - they haven't really even done anything yet. As a former high school teacher, I’m curious what the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will invest in and develop. If what they're investing in is anything like the software Facebook is piloting with Summit Schools, it could be a good thing people! 
To be 100% clear, I am skeptical of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative's plans for educa…

ESSA Gets "Developing" on My Rubric

The final draft of the "No Child Left Behind" rewrite is heading to Congress for a vote. With another persuasive title, the "Every Student Succeeds Act" (ESSA) takes one step forward from the two steps back taken with "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) and "Race to the Top" (RTTP).

I really think we should take some inspiration from IKEA for bill naming schemes. I'm just not sure every member of Congress read all 670 pages of NCLB. I wonder how many just looked at the title and thought, "This sounds emotionally compelling. I can't vote against this!" But I digress.

The ESSA hands over substantial authority from the federal government over to states and districts. It also sucker punches Arne Duncan's legacy by limiting the power and role of the U.S. education secretary. If the bill gets signed, the federal education secretary will no longer be able to "push" for a particular set of standards to be adopted (e.g. Common

Adjusting for Poverty

In a recent NYT article, Eduardo Porter outlines the Economic Policy Institute's report whose findings conclude that once U.S. students' PISA scores are adjusted for social status, we're actually doing significantly better than we thought we were.
"Then the researchers divided students into groups depending on the number of books in their homes, a measure of the academic resources at families’ disposal. This adjustment significantly reduced the American deficit, especially among students on the bottom rungs of the resource ladder.  American students from families with the least educational resources, as it turned out, scored better on the PISA math test than similar children in France and about the same as Britons, Germans and Irish." These "adjusted" results shouldn't be too surprising for educators entrenched in these realities. We know if we adjust anything for socioeconomic status, we see gains. The issue isn't, "we're doing better…

Kindergarten Cops

When I was in kindergarten, I absolutely loved when my teacher provided me with a clear, descriptive rubric aligned to Common Core Learning Standards with every assignment. If you think I'm joking, it's because I am. CCLS didn't exist when I was in Kindergarten. I remember playing with Legos, building toy railroad circuits, drawing and pretending to be Superman, and of course, crying for my mother. And I'm pretty sure my Kindergarten teacher wasn't using a rubric to assess the rigor of my sobbing.

Recently, an article from the Atlantic has been making its rounds with educators on social media. In short, the article juxtaposes America's strict, academic "reform" approach with Finland's "let kids play and figure it out" approach to kindergarten. It's an insightful case study of two well-intentioned, yet very different schools of thought in public education. 
Any time a concerned American suggests we take lessons on education policy fro…

Hipster Ice Cream

"Yo Mista... why this place really called the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop? Do they really mean gay?"

I recently took two of some of my closest students out for ice cream to tell them I wasn't coming back to teach this school year. I've known David and Ken for three years now. I've written about Ken before; I think of him as my second younger brother. These young men are slated to graduate this upcoming winter, but more importantly, I have witnessed them grow up right before my eyes. Both of them are turning 19 soon, so we're at a weird place where we can't figure out if I'm their teacher, an older sibling, a friend, or some kind of hybrid. These are often the best relationships I forge teaching high school because they're built upon real connections and blurred lines. I know we'll stay in touch long after they graduate.

I had mixed feelings as I walked out of the subway to meet them. I was really excited to see them again, but I knew telling them I…

Every Day Should be Data Day

There’s not a single day in the school year that’s capable of both boosting teachers’ morale or crushing them entirely more than data day.

Before I continue, I must first disclose I’m not against the “idea” of data day. Nor am I against measuring class data to inform and guide instruction. Quite the contrary actually — when I was in the classroom, I triangulated data from a variety of sources (including my own “teacher hunches”) and then made informed instructional decisions.

Of course, I came from the investment banking world, so making overly complex spreadsheets (on top of the mandated school gradebook) wasn’t a big issue. However, this isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a norm for teachers. Although this practice proved somewhat useful, it was incredibly time-consuming and difficult to maintain. As I gained more teaching experience, I learned when to overkill with data and when to go with my gut. Using data can be a hardship, but it can also be a game changer when used appropriately, efficie…